Fall is here and, in no time, it will be winter when nobody in the Twin Cities wants to leave their house and shows turn into a bit of a trickle unless you’re like me and will go to anything. But, before we hit that point, there are plenty of amazing outdoor block parties and shows to attend and a lot of those fell on Saturday. From Falling Knife Brewing to Surly, I truly hope you got out and enjoyed the amazing weather and some of the amazing music (and brews) that all of these local places had to offer. I had a hard time deciding which event to go to but, when it came down to it, I knew that the line-up at Surly Brewing for the Darkness Day celebration was one that I just couldn’t miss.
What is Darkness Day? It’s a bit hard to explain but let me take a stab at it. Surly has a dark dark dark dark (you get the idea) beer called Darkness. They do annual versions of said beer and celebrate it with music, tattoos, food, art installations– all things alternative and perfectly in line with my life. This year’s installment of this even was the first time in five years that it has been hosted in Minnesota. In the past, it has been held in Wisconsin due to some weird laws that made it impossible for them to sell the limited edition bottles of this beer. They promised that they would not hold another Darkness Day until they could sell the bottles themselves. I am beyond grateful that the laws changed and have made this event possible again and it being in Surly’s gorgeous beer garden was just the icing on the cake.
On top of various timed tappings of different Darkness variants dating back to 2007, there was an abundance of Surly choices to drink throughout the day. For many people, Saturday was about the beer. Trying to get the limited edition bottles and tasting all of the amazing dark beers from years gone by. Personally, I’m not much of a beer person but every beer I had on Saturday was better than the last and looking at the list of tappings that I missed throughout the day because I was more worried about the music is breaking my heart a little bit. A raspberry chocolate torte beer, Vietnamese coffee Darkness, a Double-Stuffed Darkness (is that legit an oreo beer?)? Yeah, so maybe some mistakes were made throughout the day as far as what I was drinking was concerned but seeing the excitement people had as they proudly carried their limited edition bottles around in collectible bags was just priceless.
As mentioned, I was there for the music. I know, the day wasn’t just about the music but you know me and I go where the music is, and with a line-up like they had, who was I to say no. From local favorites to legendary nationally recognized acts, Celtic punk to belly drum chaos, much like the beer choices, there was something for everyone. Being that the day was not just about the music, I promise to not go super in-depth here but did want to mention some favorite musical moments from throughout the day.
Dumpster Juice may have stolen the award for my favorite act of the day but that’s no surprise. I’ve only had the pleasure of catching this band once before but it was a set I never forgot due to the chaos and just hilarity that comes with their set. From vocalist Rowland pounding full-on pitchers of beer that were quickly refilled by Surly owner Omar Ansari who was spotted throughout the day to Rowland’s signature move of using his beer gut as a drum, it was seriously smiling all around. Although their set was full of laughs and hilarity, there was something well-polished about the chaos. Dumpster Juice is one of those bands that I think of often but don’t make a huge effort to see live when they play in town. That changes now.
Flatfoot 56 was another favorite of mine from the day. A Celtic-punk band from Chicago that I honestly just saw a few months ago when they came to The Turf Club in Saint Paul, they were the perfect band for this event. Their energy was fun and definitely got the blood flowing after what had been a fairly long day of beer-drinking and wandering. With an hour-long set to play with, they gave the audience a little bit of everything they had to offer, and if you had walked into Darkness Day not having a clue who Flatfoot 56 was, that definitely changed by the end of their set.
Closing out the fantastic day of music was a personal favorite of mine, Face To Face. A legendary band from California, I was in disbelief that I was seeing them play a brewery that I frequent just on whims and, on top of that, playing a free event. Face To Face are seasoned vets having been playing since 1991 but that didn’t stop them from having fun on stage. Their sound was flawless and they had the audience pushing and shoving their way through the set in a perfect way. Although Darkness Day was a day I never wanted to end, having Face To Face close out the night definitely helped lessen the blow a little bit.
There were many other amazing bands throughout the day but if I sat here and typed it all out, my fingers my fall off, and, let’s be honest, you wouldn’t read through it all. So, instead of going into detail on all of the other bands, I just want to say a huge thank you to the following bands for all killing it: God Cam From Space, No Encore, Impaler, Desperate Acts, Bad Planning, Black Widows, and Radkey. Seriously, everyone sounded so great and brought the perfect amount of energy to the two stages that were alternating throughout the day.
So we’ve talked about the beer and the music. That should be it, right? Wrong. Surly went big this year and there was so much more going on throughout the brewery and beer garden than just beer and music. Live tattooing was happening inside the brewery along with a constant slinging of pizzas from the restaurant upstairs. There was painting of both canvases and faces outside. The canvas pieces were stunning to watch throughout the day as they came to life but I was especially amused by the face painting done by locals. This wasn’t your typical butterflies and glitter type face paint– it was straight-up corpse paint (you know, face paint that makes you look like a corpse– think Norwegian Death Metal) worn by young and old. A small snippet of the day but something that I found to be super fun and unique. You could meet the artists behind the amazing artwork donning each of the Darkness bottles or you could spend your time messing around on these weird contraptions that I think were cars and trucks but had dinosaurs and fire and rebar and concrete all over them— okay, that was a bad explanation but you just had to be there to really get it.
I would have loved more vegetarian options when it came to food (although I did end up getting this super good pizza topped with potatoes at one point that I will absolutely be going back to get again), Darkness Day was a perfect event for the whole family. It wasn’t your typical block party nor should it have been. It was weird, it was dark, it was loud and it was absolutely perfect for what it was. Welcome back Darkness Day! Let’s do this again next year?